Fall's Journey South Update: November 13, 1998

Today's Report Includes:

Land Hurricane!
This week brought a major storm system through an enormous part of the continent, with winds over 60 m.p.h. affecting lots of migrating birds. When winds are powerful enough to knock over huge trees and lift up trucks, imagine what they can do to birds weighing less than an ounce! Compare the satellite image of this storm with that of Hurricane Georges.

Friday the Thirteenth Weather Comes Early
On November 10, the day the storm hit Wisconsin, Mary Guell from Ripon, WI, wrote, "I watched some geese flying and getting tossed sideways and backwards and wonder how they can land safely. One little junco in my yard got blown in to the side of the house. The woodpeckers are clinging to the suet as it swings."

Sue Maki wrote from the same state, "I had to drive to Milwaukee (on I-43) this afternoon and had a lot of trouble keeping my car on the road. Of course I watched to see if any bird life could function in this typhoon and was surprised to see a small flock of gulls heading for the Lake which can be seen from the highway at Cedar Grove. The lake was wicked looking. About 6 crows and a couple of good size flocks of starlings battled the wind but seemed to manage alright." By the next day, Mark Korducki was seeing about 1000 Franklin's Gulls along the Lake Michigan shore in Milwaukee. Small numbers also showed up November 11 and 12 from the north shore of Lake Erie, the Niagara River, and the south shore of Lake Ontario. This is a western gull, and these birds must have blown in on the storm.

Which brings us to this week's

Challenge Question #10
When winds are fierce, do you think birds control their flight better when they are flying into the wind or away from it? Why? If you were a bird, would you prefer to fly on days (or nights!) with light tailwinds or powerful ones? Do you think it's better for birds to save energy by flying in a fierce system or to spend more energy but be safer flying in more gentle winds?

Lucky Days!
If the weather was bad for some birds this week, it was great for birdwatchers! On Saturday, November 7, birdwatchers a few miles northeast of Halifax, Nova Scotia, discovered many European Goldfinches and a Brambling at E. Lawrencetown Beach. These songbirds belong on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean! Ornithologists are still trying to figure out if they rode part way on a ship, or if they flew the whole distance themselves.

In Brighton, Ontario, on Lake Ontario, the storm on November 10 Brighton area blew out house windows. Don Davis tried to drive home to Toronto from Presqu'ile Provincial Park on Lake Ontario and "turned back after 5 minutes! Hopefully, this wind blew in a few jaegers to the park!" The storm was lucky for a few ducks, because for safety reasons the duck hunt was
cancelled the next day by the park superintendent.

Birds from the US and Canada that remained on northern breeding grounds later than normal finally started to migrate as snow fell and ice formed on some lakes and ponds.

Whooping Crane
Migration Route

On November 11, a caller to Wisconsin Public Radio reported a Whooping Crane in West Bend, Wisconsin, and that same day an adult Whooping Crane was photographed in Illinois Beach State Park, where it joined a flock of over 2000 Sandhill Cranes. To hear the call of a Whooping Crane, courtesy of Lang Elliott, click here. These birds were flying well east of their migration route! Meanwhile, the first Whooping Cranes of the season have finally arrived in Aransas NWR.

Along the Mississippi River, Tundra Swans arrived by the hundreds. Mike Houle, on the Wisconsin side of the river in La Crosse, described an exciting scene from his own backyard on November 11. "Ducks were bolting through the evening sky heading due south down the Mississippi River. There were too many to count, given the speed. There were always more than one flock in my spotting scope, all sizes, shapes and mixes of flocks. An occasional small group of Canada Geese would float through... Every minute or two the scene would be startled by a flock of seven or ten Tundra swans, so large and graceful. [Later that evening] I stepped outside to check the Big Dipper to the sound of even more Tundra Swans, that unusual, haunting cry. (To hear the call of a Tundra Swan, courtesy of Lang Elliott, click here.)

Birdwatchers in both states found out about these rare birds through Internet bird reports.

Bald Eagle Update
Some Bald Eagles have been migrating since August, and their movements are starting to pick up speed. Hundreds are now migrating past Hawk Ridge on Lake Superior in Duluth, MN, and eight were spotted sitting in trees by Long Lake, near Minneapolis, MN. But eagle biologist Peter Nye says that of his three birds with radio transmitters, only one has even started to move, and "she's not really committed to migrating yet." Eagles usually start arriving on their New York wintering grounds in big numbers December 20-30. We'll hear a lot more from Peter Nye beginning in February when our 1999 Journey North season begins.

How to Respond to Today's Challenge Question:

1.Address an e-mail message to: jn-challenge-fall@learner.org
2.In the Subject Line of your message write: Challenge Question # 10
3.In the body of the message, answer the Challenge Question.

The Next Journey South Update Will Be Posted on November 20, 1998

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